In 2011, the Republican Party tarnished its image and nearly bankrupted itself intellectually after a primary process that endured for too long and was too hospitable to too many unelectable candidates. Bachman, Cain, Gingrich, and Paul, you know who you are.
In 2012, the Republican Party lost because of its failure to turn out the base, its failure to garner a sufficient number of Hispanic votes, and its failure to articulate a coherent vision that contrasted with Mr. Obama’s.
In 2013, the country’s balance sheet will irreversibly tilt towards the “Greece” end of the ledger unless major structural changes are made to the current taxing and spending regimes. This presents the GOP with a major opportunity, to fail or succeed.
The Republican road to electoral ruin is paved with compromise and centrism. John McCain and Mitt Romney know something about this. Conversely, the Republican road to electoral restoration is paved with bold distinctions. On the presidential level, Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush knew about this. On the state level, Chris Christie, Scott Walker, Mitch Daniels and Bobby Jindal get this.
Thus, the choice before the party is this: in the wake of an epic defeat, which road to choose? Compromise and moderation, or bold distinction? The fiscal cliff debate invites a choice.
The President, leading in word but not in deed, has made clear that he intends to fleece the rich, “invest” in more “stimulus,” and kick the fiscal can off the debt cliff and down the recession road. The President has also made clear that he favors a “tax now, cut later” approach. Apparently all that talk about a “balanced” approach during the debates was just that, talk.
Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner recently floated a proposal for $1.6 trillion in tax hikes, $50 billion in stimulus, $400 billion in cuts, and presidential control of the debt ceiling. This proposal, a policy Hindenburg, is akin to putting a diabetic in charge of a Winchell’s donuts franchise and trusting him to live long and prosper.